Good morning, Sixers fans, and welcome to the last week of the regular season. If the Sixers (47-21) go 2-2 in the final four games, they will earn the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, regardless of what Brooklyn and Milwaukee do.
The Sixers have picked an opportune time to have a season-best eight-game winning streak. Similarly, Dwight Howard is playing well, having scored a season-high 19 points twice during the streak. Yet Howard’s real value comes on the offensive and defensive glass, where he has positioned himself among some of the top rebounders in the game.
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Howard now No. 11
During Saturday’s 118-104 home win over the Detroit Pistons, Howard tied his season high of 19 points and also added 14 rebounds, the fourth time he has had double-figure boards during the current win streak.
Howard also moved to No. 11 on the NBA all-time rebound list with 14,250. He passed Walt Bellamy, who had 14,241.
Here is the all-time list, courtesy of Basketball Reference.
Wilt Chamberlain, 23,924
Bill Russell, 21,620
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 17,440
Elvin Hayes, 16,279
Moses Malone, 16,212
Tim Duncan, 15,091
Karl Malone, 14,968
Robert Parish, 14,715
Kevin Garnett, 14,662
Nate Thurmond, 14,464
Dwight Howard, 14,250
“It’s just a blessing to play this game and be a player that’s top 11 in rebounds, it’s a lot,” Howard said after the win. “I don’t think people understand how hard it is to get rebounds … moving into the list with some of these greats. The era of basketball is different, so rebounds are not just in the paint, they are longer so it is very hard to get rebounds.”
Howard said that Chamberlain, the player at the top of the list, is also on the top of his personal list.
“My favorite player of all time who is the leading rebounder in the history of basketball, Wilt Chamberlain, just studying how he got rebounds,” Howard said.
Chamberlain was long-retired by the time Howard was born, but the 35-year-old Sixers center, now in his 17th season, has poured over plenty of tape.
“He did it better than anybody,” Howard said of Chamberlain.
It should be noted that the 10 players ahead of Howard are members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, with Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan being inducted on Saturday.
Howard, an eight-time All-Star, is likely to join the top 10 rebounders in the Hall. This season he is averaging 8.5 rebounds in just 17.3 minutes per game. Among qualifiers, he leads the NBA in rebounds per 100 possessions (23.2), according to NBA.com stats.
“Every rebound I am trying to get it, and I don’t care who’s in the way,” Howard said. “Before games I just watch everybody shoot, to see where their balls are coming off the rim and just try to get myself in position to get those rebounds, but other than that it’s about who wants it.”
Despite and eight-game winning streak, Keith Pompey writes that the Sixers have showed some flaws.
David Murphy writes that Tyrese Maxey is playing his way into consideration for a postseason role.
With Kobe Bryant among those being inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday, Joel Embiid reflected on how much of his success he owes to Bryant.
Pompey writes that Doc Rivers says Embiid winning MVP would be a “feel-good thing” for Sixers’ locker room.
Marcus Hayes writes that Embiid is the clear MVP this season.
Pacers up and down
Tuesday’s opponents, the Indiana Pacers, have had an up and down season. The Pacers (31-36) are battling for a play-in spot.
Recently there have been stories about the uncertain job status of first-year coach Nate Bjorkgren. The Pacers have lost five of seven heading into Monday’s game at Cleveland.
One of the reasons has been a lack of defense. In four of those games, they allowed 130 or more points.
A recent two-game stretch really shows the up and down nature of the Pacers, scoring more than 150 points one game and allowing more than 150 the next. On May 1 they won, 152-95, at Oklahoma City and on May 3 the Pacers lost, 154-141, at Washington.
The Sixers’ win in Indiana was among their more impressive this season. They played without Joel Embiid (back tightness) and outscored the Pacers by 31-6 in the final 8 minutes, 16 seconds for the comeback win.
The Sixers will get their first look at former Brooklyn Nets guard Caris LeVert as a Pacer. He was acquired on Jan. 13 in the four-team James Harden trade, but in taking a physical that was required to complete the deal, LeVert was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma of the kidney. He missed 26 games following the cancer surgery, but since then has averaged 20.7 points in 31 games as a Pacer. He’s averaging 29 points in his last six games.
The Pacers are 12-21 at home after Saturday’s 133-132 OT loss to the Washington Wizards.
Tuesday: Sixers at Indiana Pacers, 8 p.m., Bankers Life Fieldhouse, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Thursday: Sixers at Miami Heat, 7:30 p.m., American Airlines Arena, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Friday: Orlando Magic at Sixers, 8 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Sunday: Orlando Magic at Sixers, TBD, Wells Fargo Center, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Passing the rock
Question: “Thank you for Off The Dribble! Been a Sixers fan for more than 50 years now, and I really appreciate your insights. I may be in the minority with this opinion, but I think Shake Milton has a chance to be great. I know Doc likes to make players earn their minutes (see Maxey, Tyrese), and I know Shake has had a few down stretches this season. But I truly believe he can be a major playoff asset THIS season. Your thoughts?” — Max Fogel via email
Answer: Thanks for the nice words and the question, Max. I agree that Milton could be a playoff factor, but he has to be more consistent. For example, his role is to score, and he does a nice job creating his own shot, but during the eight-game win streak, he has failed to hit double figures five times, including consecutive five-point games. He’s also not a great distributor (3.0 assists, 1.7 turnovers) so if he isn’t scoring, then he’s not helping the team much. I think he will get every chance to shine in the postseason, but if he is inconsistent, he will definitely lose minutes.